There is interesting research on the benefits of a specific form of glucosamine, N-acetyl-glucosamine, for MS patients [1,2].

N-acetyl-glucosamine is one of 8 essential sugars the human body needs.  Glucosamine is it’s metabolic byproduct of, it is part of the glyconutrients family, known as a natural remedy for joint pain.  For an excellent, though fairly enthusiatic, discussion on the possible benefits of N-acetyl-glucosamine,  you can go to GlucoNutrients4Me [3], a non-medical site of health bloggers.

The new aspect of this research  is the action of N-acetyl-glucosamine on the immune system. The possible benefits in keeping MS at bay should not come entirely as a surprise, considering another study showing the “regulation of immune cells, particularly in the activation processes of T and B lymphocytes..” [4]

Before you rush to N-acetyl-glucosamine sugar supplements, you have to understand that the research [2] was done on mice, and the disease studied was a model of MS (Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis ,or EAE), and not MS itself. Close enough, though, to be very exciting. Imagine a treatment bypassing the side effects of the current disease modifying drugs, interferons, immunosuppressants, etc.

Note that the studies [4] also suggests possible therapeutic value for this sugar as an immunomodulator and anti-tumor agent against neurodegeneration and cancer.

Shitake Mushroom

Some natural healing enthusiasts [3] have claimed that “There is no known adverse side effect to the intake of N-acetylglucosamine supplement…”, and even suggest a dosage “… although experts suggest that the intake of one gram daily for adults would be sufficient…”

The dietary sources for this sugar include:

  • Bovine cartilage
  • Shark cartilage (not ideal for diabetics and those with kidney disease)
  • and Shiitake mushrooms (good news for people on  vegetarians and kosher diets)

I will send you to WebMD [5] for the cautions on starting to take N-acetyl-glucosamine. Note the possible interference with other meds. The discussion on N-acetyl-glucosamine and  diabetes is important: it might be ok for diabetics to take this sugar. Quoting WebMD: “…Therefore, glucosamine probably does not interfere with diabetes medications. To be cautious, if you take N-acetyl glucosamine and have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely…”

As always, talk to your Doctor..



[1] nutraingredients ; “glucosamine-like supplement may suppress MS:study”,Nathan Gray; oct 3rd,2011

[2] Journal of Biological Chemistry; “N-ACETYLGLUCOSAMINE INHIBITS T-HELPER 1 (TH1) / T-HELPER 17 (TH17) RESPONSES AND TREATS EXPERIMENTAL AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALOMYELITIS”; Michael Demetriou et. al. , U. of california, Irvine,San Diego

[3] GlucoNutrients4Me; N-acetylglucosamine;

[4] EMBO ; “The O-linked N-acetylglucosamine modification in cellular signalling and the immune system”

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